A decade ago, the roots of Coopera were planted by a visionary credit union leader with big dreams for the future. Warren Morrow saw more than 45 million Hispanic people, each working to enrich their communities across the country.
He asked, “How can credit unions become providers of choice for dignified financial services in this emerging community? How can the credit union industry better serve this segment – the largest, fastest-growing, youngest and most financially underserved minority group in the United States?”
Rather than wait for those questions to be answered, Warren set out to answer them. His enthusiasm for improving the financial lives of Hispanic consumers was contagious. As more leaders in the credit union movement saw the opportunities, Coopera began to grow.
Over its 10-year history, Coopera has worked with more than 200 credit unions, credit union system organizations and non-credit unions located in 30 states across the country and has served more than 1,000,000 Hispanic consumers. The firm applies the diverse expertise and skill sets of its leadership to carry out the vision of Coopera’s founder.
Within its first year, Coopera, in partnership with the Iowa Credit Union League and Iowa Credit Union Foundation, launched a state-wide asset-building and savings account program for working Iowans and partnered with credit union associations in New York and Louisiana to mobilize more cooperatives around the mission of serving Hispanic members.
By the end of 2009, Texas, Nebraska and Georgia credit union leagues, as well as the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) had joined in the mission. Together, CUNA, the leagues and Coopera built tools, conducted research and created educational programs.
As the first decade of the new Millennium was coming to a close, CUNA and Coopera teamed to create El Poder es Tuyo (The Power is Yours), the only Spanish-language personal finance website for Hispanic credit union members. Today, the site reaches Hispanic members in more than 14 states across the country.
Building tools to improve the financial lives of Hispanic consumers continued. In 2001, Coopera partnered with its payments processing sister company TMG, now a part of CO-OP Financial Services, to build a prepaid card especially for the unique needs of the Hispanic consumer. The card was rated as the 5th Most Affordable Prepaid Card by NerdWallet.
Five years into its mission, the Coopera team lost its founder when he passed away unexpectedly. Yet Warren’s crystal clear vision continued to guide the leaders of this fast-moving company.
California and Nevada credit unions got on board in 2012, partnering with Coopera to study the Hispanic consumer segment and create multi-state educational opportunities for credit union leaders.
As Coopera honed its research and training skills, it became evident these were core competencies that could benefit even more cooperatives throughout the country. As a result, the company launched a series of Hispanic Market Analysis tools and an online resource library for professionals who wanted to grow their own Hispanic market expertise. Credit unions using these analysis tools have seen annualized Hispanic membership grow nearly four times as fast as that of non-Hispanic members. What’s more, checking and lending penetration rates at these credit unions have increased twice as fast as that of non-Hispanic members.
In 2015, Coopera’s decade of achievement was recognized alongside its AMC family of companies with one of the highest honors the credit union industry has developed, the Herb Wegner Memorial award.
Over the past several years, Coopera and its partner the Federation have put the Juntos Avanzamos designation on a national stage. A signal to Hispanic consumers that a credit union has their best interests in mind, the designation is another way to communicate credit union’s passion for and willingness to serve the Hispanic community.
Over Coopera’s 10 year history, many strategic partners have helped raise awareness of the struggles faced by Hispanic consumers, but also the great opportunity they represent. These organizations have helped hundreds of credit unions realize the influence and the value of what remains America’s largest, fast-growing, young and financially underserved minority group.
It’s a message that’s expanding far beyond the credit union space. Executives and business leaders in insurance, health care, higher education and many others are answering the call to adapt to the unique needs of a multi-faceted Hispanic consumer segment.
In just under a decade, the Hispanic community grew from 45 million to more than 57 million.
10 million in 10 years. That’s explosive growth. That’s amazing opportunity.
Many of that 57 million are still seeking the American dream. And, credit unions are helping them achieve that, one member at a time. In fact, 25 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. are now credit union members.
Coopera’s team of Hispanic market experts is also beginning to work with businesses and organizations beyond financial services. Its leaders, which include De Dios, Client Relations Director Alba Perez, Client Support Specialist Lizeth Aquino and Project Assistant Kenia Calderon, are applying their knowledge of emerging markets to engagement with other industries, as well.
As more businesses, organizations and community leaders are inspired by the credit union movement’s success, Coopera will be there, ready to partner for the success of their organizations and the greater Hispanic community.Leave a comment
When I was a young girl in the U.S., my parents – both born in Mexico – visited the local U.S. Postal Service (USPS) office to do more than buy stamps and mail packages; they also bought money orders. Without a banking relationship in our community, my parents considered the post office to be a dependable and acceptable way for them to conduct these specific financial transactions.
Today, as an adult and a strong advocate of the credit union movement, I find myself reflecting on my family’s experience. My parents bought money orders at the post office because it was convenient, reasonably priced and they weren’t asked a lot of questions. Simply stated: The post office fulfilled a simple need.
What if the post office had offered other financial services? Services similar to those offered by today’s credit unions? Would they have chosen to use those services?
The changing landscape of financial services, coupled with struggles faced by the USPS, is creating what could be perceived by credit unions as an unsettling reality: Competition from post offices, especially among minority populations, is a real threat.
Consider the following:
Financial institutions have closed about 1,900 branches over the last few years, leaving many low-income neighborhoods without a place to conduct banking. As a result, non-traditional financial entities that levy huge fees, such as payday and cash lenders, have become go-to spots for many who live in these areas.
At the same time, the USPS delivers more mail to more addresses in a larger geographical area than any other post in the world. It handles 40 percent of the world’s mail volume to more than 151 million homes. But in the age of technology, it struggles to keep up. First-class mail volumes continue to drop, and billions of dollars in net loss just this year threaten the livelihood of this “national treasure.” Post offices in rural communities across the country have experienced closures and reduced hours in recent years.
To recalibrate and create relevancy, the USPS is considering various ideas to leverage interest and loyalty from financially underserved communities, which includes Hispanics, the youngest, fastest-growing minority group in the U.S. One of its ideas capitalizes on continuing interest in e-commerce. The other is centered on postal banking. Their goal is to make check-cashing and other basic financial services part of their product/service mix.
The very approach my parents relied on when I was a child is what may challenge the entire community financial institution industry.
The USPS may be able to offer financial services, such as electronic money orders, bill payments, surcharge-free ATMs and affordable microloans, at a lower cost than credit unions. It’s also well-positioned to serve those who are currently underserved for several reasons. Among them:
Once an idea is more thoroughly understood, it’s easier to take a proactive approach. Knowledge can be leveraged; ideas exchanged. Consider the following questions: Can credit unions compete if post offices transition into financial services locations? Can they effectively connect with and earn the trust of underserved communities? Is it feasible for credit unions to develop personalized products?
Without hesitation, I believe the answer is “Yes!” to all of the above. You may be wondering why I’m so optimistic.
Credit unions have long prided themselves on knowing their members and potential members. They already provide consumers an alternative financial route to traditional banks. So, targeting consumers who do not want a relationship with a “mega bank” is already in the wheelhouses of U.S. cooperatives.
Currently, more than 100 million Americans are using credit unions. According to the World Council of Credit Unions’ annual Statistical Report survey, global credit union membership grew by an additional 10 million people in 2014. Growth resulted for various reasons:
All that said, staying ahead of the competition requires getting creative. Three ideas comes to mind:
Without question, it’s preferable to be in a position to choose one’s response vs. being in reactionary mode. Keeping a watchful and curious eye out for what’s transpiring with the USPS will empower credit unions to be at the forefront of growth trends.
It’s said wisdom comes with age. I’ve come to understand that when acclimating to anything new (much like my parents did when they arrived in the U.S.), it’s liberating to have alternatives. Being limited to one way of accomplishing something feels constricting. I’m confident had a credit union been an option for my parents, they would’ve felt welcomed, connected and understood the endless possibilities that occur with strategic financial guidance.
Instinct and experience tells me there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other immigrants interested in achieving their definition of financial success. The benefit of a credit union partner that proactively asks questions so as to guide members along the path of their entire financial journey – from selecting what types of accounts to open to planning for significant milestones such as college or a new home – is priceless. So is the peace of mind that comes with it. I know. I’ve walked in those shoes.Leave a comment
For many people – especially those of us working in the financial services industry – it can be difficult to understand why someone would not have a bank account (or if they do, why they would still use costly alternative financial services). Yet, legitimate and systemic reasons for a lack of traditional financial relationships offer a glimpse into the “why’s” behind our nation’s underserved communities.
At the recent 2014 CUNA Community Credit Union and Growth Conference, credit union leaders and I dug into the question “Why Are Consumers Unbanked” to uncover strategies that may help the movement better serve these individuals.
Below are just five of the “why’s” we discussed:
Misperceptions about money persist
Geography plays a role
Culture can be a driver
Past behavior predicts future
Language barriers are real
For credit unions, we discussed, there exists a great opportunity to provide a better alternative for these individuals. That’s because everyone has financial service needs – almost daily. Take a look at the five “why’s” above and ask yourself if your cooperative can address any or all of these for your local unbanked and underbanked community.Leave a comment
We get asked often why a firm focused on Hispanic outreach is based in Iowa, a state many consider less-than-diverse. In fact, the Hispanic population in our home state more than doubled from 2000 to
The change to our state’s consumer make-up has not escaped the attention of Iowa’s credit unions. Leaders of the state’s movement are right now exploring ways to invest in service to Hispanics, the largest, fastest-growing, youngest and most underserved group in the U.S.
To help, Coopera and the Iowa Credit Union Foundation (ICUF) recently facilitated a roundtable for Iowa credit unions. In the 4-hour session, we joined four credit unions already doing an excellent job with service to underserved consumers, many of whom are Hispanic.
Among the different ways we talked about adapting credit union products and services to this special market, the concept of unique payment products stood out. Because underserved consumers continue to use high-cost alternatives to pay bills, make rent payments and secure short-term loans, payment products present a sizable opportunity for credit unions looking to reach this market.
Here are just a few of the alternative payment providers already popular with the underbanked, Hispanics included:
PayNearMe: This provider issues plastic cards and PaySlips that can be printed or displayed on a mobile device.
Walmart: The retail giant continues to diversify its financial service products, which include everything from credit cards to money transfers. Most recently, it began marketing a low-cost checking account.
LendUp: Credit-building loans starting as low as $250 available with instant approval online. (Of course, it comes with a hefty price tag at 29% APR).
WipIt: Allows Boost and Sprint mobile phone users to make payments with cash directly from their phone.
OnDeck: Provides small business loans online, and underwriting is based on performance rather than individual credit.
Boom: A prepaid card with mobile banking features.
For each of the above, our expert panelists brainstormed alongside Iowa credit union leaders how cooperatives could compete and why they should. It was an excellent discussion, and one I’d be happy to share in more detail one-on-one. Send me an email with your thoughts or questions and we can talk through your credit union’s payments strategy and how it may be configured to appeal to the underserved Hispanics in your community.Leave a comment
The Coopera Prepaid Reloadable Visa® Card has been ranked by NerdWallet.com as one of the most affordable, cost-effective prepaid cards available to consumers. The online financial planning resource’s ranking is based on the Coopera Card’s low fees as compared to more than 70 other prepaid card options on the market, including two competing prepaid card products also specifically targeted to Hispanic cardholders.
The Coopera Card is also the only prepaid reloadable card in NerdWallet.com’s top five ranking that was specifically designed for the Hispanic cardholder and provides a seamless cardholder experience in the language of choice of the Hispanic cardholder.
Because no two prepaid card products are exactly the same, especially when it comes to fees, like monthly, ATM or transaction fees, NerdWallet.com built an interactive prepaid card comparison tool to help consumers standardize prepaid cards’ disclosures, fee structures and terms and conditions. The tool gives consumers a tailored, at-a-glance understanding of each card’s cost structure and ranks a prepaid card’s affordability based on:
One of the ways the Coopera Card keeps costs low, and its ranking on NerdWallet.com high, is by offering fee-free cash loads at the cardholder’s credit union, by direct deposit of payroll checks or through online transfers from an existing checking or savings account, as well as from other credit or prepaid cards. And for the cardholder’s convenience, Coopera Card cardholders can also load cash on their cards via Visa ReadyLink merchants for a fee.
To see how the Coopera Card compares to other prepaid cards, visit: http://www.nerdwallet.com/prepaidLeave a comment
Coopera is pleased to announce the newest member of its executive management team — Gustavo Grüber! A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Gustavo brings more than 20 years of multicultural experience in marketing, business development and operations to Coopera, making him the perfect fit for his new role as Coopera’s vice president.
We’re excited to welcome Gustavo to the Coopera team. In his past roles at RR Donnelley/Banta, PSA Directo, Russ Reid, Hispanic Direct and Alaniz, he pioneered innovative marketing techniques that helped his clients achieve their acquisition, retention and renewal goals. His insight and efforts will offer Coopera and our clients new opportunities for Hispanic community outreach efforts.
In addition to his corporate experience, Gustavo has also served as the Chair of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) “Directo” Council for Hispanic Marketing and was the founder of the Multicultural Marketing Group in the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing (CADM). He has also been a featured speaker at multicultural marketing conferences and has published articles on Hispanic marketing in trade publications.
In his new role at Coopera, Gustavo will be responsible for leading the company’s business development and sales strategies, brand awareness, product presence and revenue generation, as well as will serve as a key touch point for the company’s existing partners and prospective clients.
Gustavo is a great fit for Coopera, both professional and personally. We look forward what he will help us accomplish as the company works to address the complex challenges associated with Hispanic marketing and develop effective solutions to reach and serve our target audience.Leave a comment
While it’s true the Hispanic market is the largest, fastest-growing group in the United States, that’s not the only reason the country’s credit unions are working hard to learn more about this community.
To gain that understanding of the Hispanic community, credit unions must begin by fully examining their current outreach and potential for growth. One way credit unions are pursuing this strategy is through the use of Coopera’s Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON).
By asking the right questions the HON will uncover a credit union’s readiness to reach a new market or to take the efforts to the next level. The HON also sets forth a plan of action for credit union staff to follow on its path to growth through the Hispanic market.
With this plan, credit unions will be encouraged to implement new tactics to grow its Hispanic membership, such as:
When implemented in the proper sequence, these tactics will ultimately achieve results much faster and much more cost-effectively for a credit union than if they had gone without a charted course.
The HON is quickly becoming a standard in the industry. In fact, Texas credit unions hoping to attain the Juntos Avanzamos designation* are strongly encouraged to perform a HON analysis.
*The Juntos Avanzamos designation, which translates to “Together We Advance,” is an indicator to consumers that the designated financial institution is not only welcoming, but prepared to handle the financial needs of the Hispanic community
For more information about how the HON can help your credit union’s Hispanic outreach programs, download the white paper “Asking the Right Questions.”Leave a comment
The Hispanic population is very young as compared to other U.S. ethnic groups. The best potential for lowering the average age of a credit union’s membership is by bringing Hispanic members into the fold. Because it is a largely underserved group, helping Hispanic members navigate the U.S. financial system is an important part of the overall credit union mission.
Hispanic outreach is an indispensable investment in a credit union’s future. But, seeing the benefit of serving the Hispanic population is one thing. Truly understanding what it takes to do so is quite another.
To gain that understanding, credit unions must begin by fully examining their current outreach and potential for growth. This places the credit union in a much better position for defining success and for developing a strategic plan for achieving that success.
By asking these questions, credit unions can develop a customized strategy for achieving their goals:
• Is the credit union well-positioned to target and serve the Hispanic market?
• How many Hispanic members is the credit union currently serving?
• What milestones has the credit union already achieved?
• How many Hispanic members could the credit union serve and what is the income potential?
• What are the opportunities and challenges faced by the credit union?
• What are the best-practice strategies that will attract and retain Hispanic members?
To learn more about how asking the right questions can help grow your credit union’s Hispanic membership, download Coopera’s white paper “Asking the Right Questions.”Leave a comment
Hispanic outreach is an indispensable investment in the future. Yet having a Hispanic growth strategy on its own will not generate the kind of success a credit union needs. It is the integration of a Hispanic growth strategy with the credit union’s overall strategic future that will ultimately create sustainable success.
One way for credit unions to pursue their membership growth strategy with their local Hispanic community is through the use of Coopera’s Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON), an industry-accepted assessment that Coopera has completed for more than 50 credit unions across the country.
Designed to make strategic planning for a Hispanic growth strategy simple, the HON provides a measurement of a credit union’s Hispanic membership baseline.
In addition, the program evaluates a credit union’s cultural disposition to serving a new market. As a third assessment, the HON analyzes the credit union’s tactical progress to understand what has already been accomplished toward becoming what Coopera calls a “Best Practice Credit Union.”
The HON supplies a road map to follow utilizing three Hispanic growth stages: Discovery, Emerging and Best Practice. By asking the right questions during these phases, the HON gives credit unions a customized strategy for achieving their goals.
One Coopera customer, Arna Reynolds, CEO of Amarillo Community Federal Credit Union, says, “The HON has been an invaluable tool for our Hispanic programs. It has given us the ability to adapt our strategic plan to include target marketing with customized messages to the appropriate age groups. Now with a defined roadmap, we understand exactly which direction to take next.”
For more information about how the HON can help your credit union’s Hispanic outreach programs, download the white paper “Asking the Right Questions.”Leave a comment
I recently appeared on an episode of the CU Broadcast to discuss the Hispanic market opportunity for credit unions. The host, Mike Lawson, and I talked through quite a few topics, most notably how credit unions can earn the trust of young, unbanked Hispanics.
The video is also archived at CUBroadcast.com, along with many other insightful episodes of the show. If you get a free minutes, visit the site and watch a few…Leave a comment